It's strategy, it's 3-D simulation, it's downright realistic warfare. Campaign 2 is here in all its colourful glory. The first thing I noticed was that the game packaging seemed anxious to impress us with the fact that great advances had been made on the original version. We are told: "Campaign was big". Well okay, I'll certainly agree with that. "Campaign was good". Yes alright, it's not exactly the most imaginative description in the world, but it cuts through the nonsense and gets straight to the point. And finally: "Campaign II is bigger, better and quite simply the military simulation of the year!". Now that's a bit of a monstrous claim I thought. I hope this isn't more of the wild exaggeration that most software houses seem all too prone to stoop to these days. Thankfully though we seem to have an exception here with which we can batter and bludgeon the proverbial rule over the head.
As with all strategy games, there's a positively enormous manual to wade through first before you can even contemplate making a decent fist of the game itself, but fortunately there's also a quick startup guide to get you up and running. It may all seem very confusing at first, but perseverance is the name of the game.
The action depicts a military campaign of your own choosing, consisting of several wars and a number of different battles, depending upon your experience and the complexity of the particular scenario. Direct your forces around the main campaign map and before long you will come across an enemy battalion who are simply spoiling for a fight. Once the gauntlet has been ceremoniously thrown down, there is the possibility to decide whether the computer determines the outcome of the battle, or alternatively, taking part in a bit of 3-D warfaring action.
Smells like victory
Choose the latter option and the battlefield will open up before you. You might even think that you're actually there with the smell of cordite in your nostrils and the sound of riotous explosions in your shell-likes. Well no, not exactly. The 3-D section wouldn't stand up as an arcade-style tank blitz on its own, but nevertheless the graphics and sound are pretty impressive for a game of this type.
There are 14 training campaigns provided, ranging from a simple open field full of enemy tanks to complex scenarios with more realistic geographical features. These campaigns are an essential training ground in which you are given the opportunity to fine tune your battle skills and strategic awareness before committing yourself to one of the Real War Maps.
The six major conflicts in which you can take part range from the Six Day War fought between Israel and the Arab countries in 1967, to the struggle to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqis by allied forces in the not so distant past. The complexity of these scenarios makes them extremely compelling to play, and there's certainly enough depth to keep even the most avid strategy specialist engrossed for a good while. Even if that's not enough for you, one of the better features of the Campaign series is the option of editing the existing maps, thereby allowing you to design your own campaign scenarios. This makes the gameplay possibilities more or less endless, and is as good a reason as any for treating these sims with more than just a little reverence.
As far as actually playing the game is concerned, the screen icons can seem a bit confusing to the uninitiated, but those clever bods at Empire have included a nifty description of each graphic's purpose which can easily be accessed by clicking on the object with the right hand mouse button. Once this information has been assimilated it should be full steam ahead and off into battle with nothing to stop you.
My only real criticism concerns the similarity between Campaign II and it's predecessor. Empire obviously feel confident enough to release the new version as a full price game rather than in a cheaper Mission Disk form, and this may be seen as quite a substantial gamble on their part. Only time will tell in the end though I suppose, but if there's any justice in the world, Campaign II should prove just as big a success as its older brother.
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